Martin Gilbert: Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years
p165 Chamberlain and appeasement
7 November 1936 A Cabinet meeting held in Baldwin’s absence (he was resting in the country on doctor’s orders) set pattern for British foreign policy. There was disagreement.
Inskip opened: Since the policy of collective security has 9his word) “disappeared”, a new policy was required. If the Cabinet stuck to its plans to have the country prepared for was by 1937, there would be no alternative to announcing emergency powers and placing country practically on a “war footing”.
Eden and Duff Cooper were in favour of this latter course of action. Samual Hoare argued that such meansures would cause “immense upheaval” and weaken the country in the future. He spoke in favour of a much quieter foreign policy. The Secretary of State for the Dominions said there was a strong current of opinion against friendship with France.
Chamberlain (Chancellor of the Exchequer) produced the decisive argument in favour of appeasement: although the question of “national safety” was a difficult one for him tooppose, he was “getting concerned at the mounting cost” of defence programmes, which were “mounting at a giddy rate”. He recognised that “national security must come first”, but Britain’s resources were “not unlimited” - and there would be a financial burden on future generations.
Gilbert: “A clear policy was about to emerge: the search for some form of direct agreement with Germany, in order to preserve Britain’s financial resources.” (p166)
Churchill warned of the dangers of pursuing appeasement from a position of weakness.
8 November: Speech in Commons, unless there was a ‘Front’ against potential aggression, all the nations in Europe, including Britain, “will just be driven helter-skelter across the diplomatic chessboard until the limits of retreat are exhausted, and then... the explosion of war will take place...”
MG: “Churchill’s arguments were gaining increasing support each time he spoke”. (Eden, despite his position in the Cabinet, wrote to Churchill to thank him for the speech).
11 November: Major defence debate. Churchill made a “sledgehammer” attack on the government’s defence achievements (Harold Nicholson’s phrase). Attacked lack of equipment. [Inskip earlier had admitted the UK could muster only 960 front line planes vs 1500 German planes). Churchill called for a Ministry of Supply, attacked the government as “decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
Baldwin then spoke of the difficulties of pushing for rearmament between the Fulham by-election (1933) and the Gneral Election (1935). “Would have made the loss of the election more certain”. Also repeated that Churchill’s figures were exaggerated, said a Ministry of Supply “would upset the whole trade of the country” and might “react on finance”.
MG: “Thus finance replaced pacifism as the reason for rejecting the defence measures being urged.”
p167. In absence of a clear lead from the government Churchill continued to work to educate the public.…